Bart Leeflang, our bus mechanic ready for the future of sustainable mobility!

2022.21.01
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It has become almost impossible to imagine our streets without them, but in fact they have not been around all that long: our electric buses. In recent years, these silent, zero-emission vehicles have replaced their diesel or gas-powered predecessors in many Transdev operations around the world, and Transdev Netherlands is well on its way to becoming a fully zero-emission fleet by 2030.

It’s not just the drivers who have to get used to the transition to an electric vehicle, but also the mechanics who carry out the daily maintenance. Bart Leeflang is a Diagnostics Technician at Transdev subsidiary, the Connexxion Schiphol-North depot in the Netherlands, which has been operating an all-electric fleet since 2018. 

Just call me a mechanic. The big difference with the old buses is the height. You’re more often on top of the bus than under it! 

Bart Leeflang, Diagnostics Technician at Transdev subsidiary, Connexxion Schiphol-North depot in the Netherlands

Bart has been interested in technology since he was a child, he says:

 

Mopeds, go-karts, tinkering with electricity; there has always been an interest in it. I went to the Agricultural and Horticultural School, but strangely enough I didn’t want to do anything with agriculture or horticulture. They had a fantastic technical program there and I went for that

Bart Leeflang, Diagnostics Technician at Transdev subsidiary, Connexxion Schiphol-North depot in the Netherlands

For that study, Bart had to go on an internship and so in 1999 he ended up at the Connexxion workshop in Uithoorn, which would be the start of his career with the company.

It was so much fun that I stuck around. After Uithoorn, I worked at many different workshops. Zeist, Nieuwegein, Haarlem. Once, there was even the possibility of working on the island of Texel. But because I did not have a driving license at the time, that unfortunately did not happen. I do now have a driving license, but I feel perfectly at home here. 

Bart Leeflang, Diagnostics Technician at Transdev subsidiary, Connexxion Schiphol-North depot in the Netherlands

 

 

Nevertheless, the work in which Bart now has more than 20 years of experience has changed somewhat in recent years. The reason? The arrival of the electric buses. 

Instead of adjusting valves, we now use a laptop on top of the bus. Instead of changing the oil, we now put a perfectly measured quantity of grease into the electric motor once a year. It took some getting used to, but at best it has made the work ‘different’. Certainly, no less fun. And an added benefit: my hands used to be a lot dirtier.

What I like most about working on these buses is finding out where the problem is and how it can be solved. Of course, there is also standard maintenance, such as changing the tires or fitting new brakes, but I prefer the puzzles. 

Bart Leeflang, Diagnostics Technician at Transdev subsidiary, Connexxion Schiphol-North depot in the Netherlands

Despite the fact that computers can quickly register where a problem (might) be, it still requires knowledge and experience of the mechanics, 

Knowing where the problem is is the first step. But then you have to figure out how to solve it. At the very moment, I can sometimes be cursing at such a bus. But afterwards, when the last piece of the puzzle has been found, it does feel like a reward that the bus is ready for the next service again. 

Bart Leeflang, Diagnostics Technician at Transdev subsidiary, Connexxion Schiphol-North depot in the Netherlands

In 2018, all diesel buses at Schiphol-North were replaced by a total of 100 electric buses from the Dutch manufacturer VDL. That was a good time to give the workshop a good overhaul, Bart explains.

The workshop used to be a lot smaller and more cramped. You got in each other’s way and there was little room to work properly. When the new buses were announced, we took the opportunity and renovated the entire workshop. It was a project in which I myself invested a lot of time and energy, but I am proud of the result. It is cleaner, larger, lighter and equipped with all sorts of technical innovations that enable us to work safely and efficiently. Think of fall protection for when we work on the buses and new, powerful bus lifts. It has become much more modern.

Bart Leeflang, Diagnostics Technician at Transdev subsidiary, Connexxion Schiphol-North depot in the Netherlands

In addition to the maintenance of the buses themselves, Bart and his colleagues now also have the knowledge and authority to carry out maintenance on the charging installations. 

Our buses are charged with a pantograph, a kind of arm that comes up from the roof of the bus and connects to a hood that hangs several meters high. These hoods sometimes need to be replaced, for example. You’ll be surprised how big those things are. All in all, we have gained a lot of experience with electric buses and everything that comes with it. We are ready for the future! 

Bart Leeflang, Diagnostics Technician at Transdev subsidiary, Connexxion Schiphol-North depot in the Netherlands

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